Looking for the right online community platform to host your business’s branded community?
Choosing the right online community software can feel overwhelming, as elements like ease of use, customer support, platform flexibility, and more are at stake. To alleviate the stress of this big decision, we’ve reviewed the top 11 online community software solution companies on the market.
Read on to get all the details—the good, the bad, and the ugly—of the most popular solutions out there. We’ve shared tons of insights on what you should look for in an online community platform so you can make the best choice for your business.
What are online community software solution companies?
Online community platforms are software solutions that allow you to create a digital space for members to learn, connect, and engage with you and other members.
Your choice of software depends on your goals for your community. For instance, are you creating a private networking group, or is it a free community for students of your online course?
Different platforms have different strengths. Knowing your priorities will help you narrow down the options as we review the top online community platforms and their functionality. Let’s dive in!
What to look for in a community platform
Community software solutions have a core community functionality with other features that add value and support specific goals. To choose, look for a solution that will work for your business now and into the future.
Don’t focus exclusively on individual features. Instead, look at the total package and how well the software fits into the long-term vision of your business.
Here’s what to look for in a good community software solution:
Intuitive and easy to use. You’re going to spend a great deal of time building and managing your community. You want to enjoy the experience. Make sure the platform is intuitive and allows you to work efficiently. And of course, you want it to be easy and enjoyable for your members to use as well!
Simple to access. Your members should be able to quickly log in when you’re hosting an event or they want to engage. The fewer hurdles there are to getting into the platform, the more likely members will be to participate.
Integrates with the rest of your business. Most communities are part of a larger ecosystem of products: online courses, coaching, and training materials. Everything needs to have the same branded look and feel, and it should be easy to navigate from one space to the next.
Includes marketing and sales features. You can’t grow a community that no one knows about. Ideally, the platform will include tools for promoting your community, selling memberships, and upselling your other products.
Insightful analytics. To provide a great experience that attracts members and keeps them engaged, you have to understand what’s working and what isn’t. Analytics tools give you the information you need about your members behavior and preferences so you can focus your efforts in the best ways.
11 top online community software solution companies
Now, let’s review the top online community softwares currently available.
Since its launch in 2010, Kajabi has been widely recognized as the leading platform for knowledge creators. Its online community software gives course creators, coaches, and community owners a simple-yet-effective way to build and manage a thriving community.
Kajabi’s Community feature allows you to create private groups where your members can safely connect. The Membership feature offers more robust tools for hosting paid groups. With both, you can use a custom domain to ensure your community is tied to your business. And you can design the space to fit your brand’s look and feel.
Key benefits of Kajabi include:
Simplicity. Kajabi makes it super easy to create and manage your online community. You can make your community a standalone product or use it as a value-add to your courses or coaching program.
Multiple tiers. You can create free and paid communities to design a “membership funnel” for your business. Your free membership can attract potential customers by giving them a space to interact with you and fellow peers. Then, use Kajabi’s robust marketing toolset to upsell your paid community, where members can access premium content or benefits.
Deep integration with your marketing and sales tech stack. One of the things that sets Kajabi apart is its complete suite of business-building tools. As a Kajabi user, you get access to the entire toolset, including:
- Website builder
- Landing page builder
- Email marketing software
- Funnel builder
- Order pages and payment processing
- Podcast host
With Kajabi, all your tools are designed to work together so you never have the headache of building tech integrations or diagnosing breakdowns. Just sign in, and you’re ready to rock and roll.
As an all-in-one solution, Kajabi also saves you money. Investing in one-off products and building your own tech stack, you can easily spend hundreds of dollars every month. With Kajabi, you have one monthly fee that covers everything you need to run a successful online business.
The Basic plan is $119 a month and includes 3 digital products (a community and two others) and up to 10,000 contacts. When you outgrow the Basic plan, you can upgrade to the Growth plan for $159 a month. That gives you 15 products and up to 25,000 contacts.
2. Facebook Groups
If you’re a Facebook user, you probably belong to at least one Facebook group. Facebook lets you create private groups where you can connect with your audience for personal or business reasons.
Facebook Groups are free, but there are hidden costs in terms of trust and reputation. Public trust in the company has dropped 66% in recent years.
For example, after building a Facebook Group to host her community, Kathryn Aragon discovered that many of her members were no longer using Facebook. To boost engagement, she had to move the community to another platform.
The key benefits of Facebook as a community platform are:
Privacy. The content within the group can only be viewed by other members.
Discussion. Posts and comments allow members to discuss topics in real time. Any group updates are sent directly to members, which can help streamline communications.
Member management. Group administrators can easily manage the group members and permissions.
Downsides include lack of ownership (that’s a biggie) and no member directory or website management. Members aren’t really your customers. They’re Facebook’s customers. Let’s not forget the great Facebook outage of October, 2021, which caused small businesses around the world to instantly lose access to their communities and customers.
Another big complaint from community owners is the lack of direct support, with only support forums offered for troubleshooting.
After gaining popularity in the gaming world, Discord has become a popular community platform for all types of users. Its goal: to create spaces where people can connect around common interests.
As an online community software solution company, Discord offers real-time video and audio conversations. It also includes custom roles to distinguish members and administrators.
Because of its gamer and techie origins, the aesthetics have a dark theme, which may or may not align with your brand’s design. Discord doesn’t give you many options for branding your membership space.
It offers the following features:
AI-Powered Bots. You can program the bots to greet new members and personalize the experience. Members will know it’s a bot interacting with them, but you can create fun experiences with it while providing useful information.
Reliable, secure private channels. Discord doesn’t have a time-lag, so it can feel like you’re in the same room. It’s known for its security and all channels are private, allowing members to feel safe in their discussions.
Moderator Academy. This is a comprehensive resource for first-time and veteran moderators to level up their community management skills.
On the downside, setting up your Discord community can be complicated. That means a learning curve, and you might not be able to get the most out of the platform. Your Discord server will also be alongside all of the other communities your members are in, so you’ll be competing for their attention.
Discord is available for free. Just download the software and set it up. You can also upgrade to Discord Nitro ($99.99 a year) to access more emojis, bigger uploads, high-resolution video, and a few other upgrades.
4. Mighty Networks
Mighty Networks offers an online course platform with a built-in community feature. It’s a robust platform that allows for personalized branding and features that encourage community engagement.
Key Mighty Networks features include:
Mobile access. This online community platform features a mobile app that makes it easy for members to engage when they’re on the go. In fact, it’s easier to engage on your phone than online.
Email alerts. Members get email alerts when there’s new community activity. This gives them a quick nudge to log in and see what they might be missing.
Branding. Mighty Network allows you to create a branded space that has a similar look and feel to your website. Simply apply your branded colors to buttons, tabs, text links, and action icons.
It’s important to note that Might Networks is a community-focused platform. If you want to create other types of products to expand your business, you may need to invest in other apps and software to host them.
Check out our full Kajabi vs. Mighty Networks rundown for all the details.
Hivebrite is an all-in-one community management platform designed for nonprofits and education organizations. It serves more than 500 organizations like Vanderbilt University, WWF, and Sabin Vaccine Institute.
They don’t display their prices on their website. To evaluate Hivebrite, you’ll need to sign up for a demo—a strong signal that they only offer corporate pricing plans.
That said, they do have attractive features. Your community can be fully branded. And, it lets you manage your community, content, and marketing tools in one place.
Some of Hivebrite’s standout features:
Live feed. It’s possible to livestream to community members and host real-time meetings.
Access rights. With Hivebrite, you can assign different access rights to different user groups, like students and alumni. You can also create tiers of membership, with greater access to paying members.
Modular features. As your community evolves, you can turn on different features. Options include events, forums, networking, groups, media center, messaging, and a job board or directory.
One challenge with this platform is integrating it with your database and other tech. Most likely, you’ll need to hire an IT expert to complete the APIs that sync it with other tools.
Tribe is a customizable community platform that has an app ecosystem, direct third-party integrations, and tools to embed the community into other products and websites. Use cases include customer education, customer success, customer support, customer relationship, brand leadership, and product feedback.
With Tribe, the core features take care of the essential community components. Apps extend your capabilities. For example:
- Slack gives admins and moderators notifications of various activities.
- Zapier connects your community to other tools in your tech stack.
- Google Analytics helps you measure activity in your community.
Tribe includes the following features:
Social sharing. Tribe includes Open Graph tags that facilitate social sharing. This makes it easy to share content outside the community to generate interest from potential members.
Integration. Third-party integrations with nearly 30 apps allow you to merge your community with the tools you already use.
Moderation panel. Tribe gives you the ability to allow, edit, or reject posts by users. You can also archive old content to keep your feed clean.
Tribe is free for up to 100 members. The Plus Plan, at $59 a month, allows Plus apps and up to 2,500 members. Though to get the most from the app, you’ll need to upgrade to the Premium Plan at $299 a month. This will allow you to remove the Tribe branding, use its API and webhooks, and expand to 25,000 members.
Circle allows you to build a community around your courses, coaching, or customer support. It aims to simplify the community-building process by equipping you to create content and private spaces, drive discussions, and monetize your membership. It has rich features and allows you to create a branded space that matches your website.
Some of Circle’s standout features include:
Easy integrations. Circle plays nicely with third-party tools, including email marketing software, Slack, Wordpress, and Kajabi, so you can market your community or merge it with other products.
Private and secret spaces. You can create separate areas for different groups within your membership. For instance, you might have one space for core members and another for premium members.
Searchable member directory. You can help members network with one another through custom profile fields and search filters.
Circle starts at $35 a month plus a 4% transaction fee per user. The Basic plan gives you the bare essentials for your community, including discussions and private messaging. Upgrade to the Professional Plan ($89 a month plus a 1% transaction fee per user) to unlock courses, live streaming, and advanced analytics.
You may need to pay extra for add-ons such as extra administrators, extra spaces, email white-labeling, and custom single sign-on (SSO).
8. Vanilla Forums
Vanilla Forums is designed to empower mid-sized and enterprise organizations to offer exceptional customer experiences. It’s often used for customer support, customer experience, product marketing, and brand awareness.
Vanilla provides a good user experience, integration with your existing tech stack, and flexible customization to fit your brand.
Key features of Vanilla Forums include:
Knowledge base. You can create a self-service Help Center within your community that houses your user guides and help documents.
Survey customization. With Vanilla Forums, you can send out customizable surveys to your community to receive direct feedback.
Open source community. You can download Vanilla’s open source code for free and host your community yourself. Feeling techy? You can even contribute to the code.
This platform is less suited to independent creators and solopreneurs, and pricing is not displayed on the website. But if you’re interested, you can make an appointment to talk to a sales rep.
WildApricot is an all-in-one platform that was originally created for nonprofits and associations. Now, its users include clubs, associations, and state and local chapter organizations.
Wild Apricot has a self-serve design that lets you customize every aspect of your community. Its gamification and reputation system helps you promote good content, unlock member features, and automate moderation.
It includes these key features:
Event management. Plan events such as online auctions, virtual conferences, and webinars—and get sponsors for your event. You can also publish your event calendar and set up event registrations.
Donations. With WildApricot, you can accept donations and share progress towards your donation goals. You can also export your donations records to make it easier to track and manage donations.
CRM. Like Kajabi, WildApricot offers a CRM (customer relationship management) tool that includes a robust member directory that can be accessed from anywhere.
You’ll need third-party tools for marketing and running your business. Most will integrate with WildApricot, including WordPress, Mailchimp, and Zapier. Also, payment processing is only available for U.S. and Canada residents.
Check out our full breakdown comparing Kajabi and WildApricot.
You can test WildApricot for free up to 50 contacts. Your price will then increase as your community grows:
- $48 a month for 100 contacts
- $60 a month for 250 contacts
- $110 a month for 500 contacts
- $190 a month for 2,000 contacts
10. Disciple Media
Disciple Media is a community platform that consists of three parts: a console for managing your content on mobile or desktop, the mobile app where members can engage, and the web community, which gives people a desktop space to engage.
It’s designed for creators, founders, and influencers who want to build their own fully-branded social platform.
Disciple Media includes the following features:
Multiple layouts. You can store and share content from one central place. Use folders, groups, and lists to create a custom structure for your community.
Mobile app. Disciple Media is similar to a social network in that the mobile app experience is prioritized for users. There is a web app, but it has limited features compared to the mobile app.
In-app purchases. Disciple lets you drive in-app purchases and sponsorships, so you can turn your members into subscribers.
The cost of Disciple depends on the number of members and your choice of web, mobile, or both:
- Web only: $46 a month for 100 members
- Mobile only: $458 a month for 500 members
- Web and mobile: $504 for 500 members
Add-ons include API, whitelabeling, and extra administrative users. You’ll also pay more for community coaching, member support, and mastermind features.
Vibely.io was created by two former Asana employees, Teri Yu and Theresa Lee, who looked to disrupt the creator communities in a positive way. Their tagline, “Built by women, not by gamer dudes,” gives you an idea of the vibe they’re going for.
Vibely.io is a creator-controlled online community platform that allows creators to interact with fans and collect user-generated content.
Vibely.io’s top features include:
Commitment to positivity. Vibely promises no trolls, spam, or violence. They aim to create a space where everyone belongs.
Accountability tools and challenges. The app includes challenges, leaderboards, and trackers to keep everyone motivated.
Ambassadors. Vibely lets you appoint leaders in your community to help you welcome and manage members.
You can create a Vibely community for free, with no limit on the number of members, ambassadors, or super administrators. But on the free plan, you can’t accept recurring payments. The Mastermind plan unlocks payments and takes a 10% cut of revenue.
Update! Kajabi is excited to announce that we have acquired Vibely. Their ground-breaking community platform will become the foundation for the new and improved communities experience on Kajabi. Exciting features like live calls, challenges, leaderboards, accountability tools, real-time chat, and more are just around the corner. Learn more here!
The best online community software solution company
There’s a lot to consider when choosing the best online community platform. You need tools to build, market, and sell your community, and the platform needs to be user-friendly for both you and your members.
As you can see from our reviews, there are plenty of good options – but one stands out as an all-in-one business platform.
Only Kajabi empowers you to create and monetize a vibrant community along with other digital products such as online courses and coaching programs. And, only Kajabi gives you all the tools you need to market and sell these products, so you can grow and scale a profitable knowledge business.
If all you want is to create a forum, you might choose one of the other community platforms we’ve reviewed. Depending on the size of your community, that alternative could be affordable (or even free).
But free software solutions will subject you to outside algorithms and rules while limiting your growth potential. They don’t offer the features you need and often cap the number of members you can accept.
With Kajabi, your community is yours. You set the terms, conditions, and price, whether free or paid.
If you’re looking to build an online community, Kajabi is your all-in-one solution. With video walkthroughs and tutorials, you can get up and running quickly. Through Kajabi University, you have access to training on the basics of running an online community, free to all users.
Start your free 14-day trial of Kajabi today!